Hirugami is a popular hot spring area surrounded by the Japanese Alps in the southern part of Nagano Prefecture. Many Onsen Hotels are located next to a river sourced by the pure mountain streams. You can enjoy a walk along the river before indulging a warm and relaxing bath.
Every year, Kodo, one of Japan’s best taiko ensembles, hosts a summertime music festival on their home island of Sado. The festival takes place in Ogi, a small town (but quite big for Sado standard) nearby Kodo village where the members of Kodo live and train.
During the three days of the festival, many cultural and artistic activities focused on Sado’s traditions and taiko drums are held in the vicinity of Ogi. Each evening, a big show is held on the main stage of the festival. While the last show usually features Kodo’s classics, others feature invited guests (this year featured Braman, a metal band). After the festival is over, Kodo bids farewell to their visitors by performing on the dock in front of the departing ferry. As the sound of the drums fades away, one already thinks of coming back to Earth Celebration.
This collection of photos was taken on our way to the Yajima-Kyojima park for a ride of Taraibune. The area west of Ogi features rice paddies, traditional Japanese architecture and charming narrow streets. Walking around that region is a great way to experience the beauty of Sado while staying in Ogi.
The village of Shukunegi was developped in the late 17th century and thrived from the shipbuilding industry. The skilled workmen used their skills to build their houses, sometimes in unusual ways. Many of these houses are preserved in Shukunegi. The village is made of narrow stone paths leading to beautiful historical houses. Visitors may also visit Shokoji temple wich is located behind the village.
The Hakusan Maru is a newly built sengokubune (a wooden freight ship used for transporting goods). It is on exhibit at the Sengokubune Exhibition Hall close to the village of Shukunegi. The museum’s exhibit explains the construction process which employed the very same traditional methods that were used to build this type of ship in the ancient times.
A Taraibune is a traditional boat originating from Sado Island. It essentially looks like a wooden barrel cut in half and is manoeuvred with a single paddle attached to the front of the boat. Traditionally, they were used to fish mollusks like abalone but nowadays they are a popular attraction among tourists. One may try the taraibune in Ogi harbor but it is perhaps better to go for a ride at the Yajima-Kyojima park instead which is much more scenic. The red-lacquered bridge linking the Ya Island and the Kyo island over the pristine water is often used in promotional material for Sado island because of its unique beauty.
If you have climbed mountains of the Japanese Alps or tall volcanoes like mount Fuji, you know how good it feels to bath in a hot spring after a hard day of hiking. Now imagine you arrive at your campsite with a natural outdoor onsen waiting for you with an amazing scenery. This is the dream waiting for you at Hakubayari Onsen, the highest onsen in Japan.
A mountain hut is built every spring next to the hot spring and disassembled in fall before avalanche season. A tentsite with limited space is also located next to the hot spring (all spaces were filled by noon on the day of our hike). A small cafeteria serves a simple dinner in the evening and staff can prepare cup noodles at lunchtime. More importantly, they sell beer. Yes, Japanese mountain climbing usually involves beer and most guest of Hakubayari onsen can be seen with a beer in hand at some time during their stay.
The hut is actually on the way to Hakuba-Yarigatake, a prominent peak in the region. We started our climb of Yarigatake from the hut at around 6 in the morning and summited at around 10:30. The view was spectacular. We could see mount Shirouma, Mount Tateyama, mount Kashima-Yarigatake, and Kurobe Damm.
The trail we took back and forth to the summit starts from the Sarukura parking lot. We got a ride from familly member but I know that taxis will drive you up there from Hakuba station.